Who is Herodotus (Herodotus)?June 25, 2021
Herodotus (480-420 BC) is one of the important figures of the fifth century with his work named History. Herodotus lived in one of the most turbulent periods of the Greek world, militarily and politically, and at the time when classical Greek thought was established.
The history of Herodotus is quite wide in scope. Although the general subject in the book is Persian-Greek relations, Herodotos traveled to regions such as Egypt, Babylon, Iran, Anatolia, Thrace, Scythians and Greece, and described various regions by making use of written documents. It deals with the geographies, climates, settlement patterns of the cities, religious beliefs, traditions, political structures, clothing, army styles, legends on various subjects of the mentioned countries.
In addition, he dealt with subjects such as legends, geography, anthropology, ethnology, political science, and history, which provide plenty of material for today’s sciences. Bonnard lists Herodotos’s curiosity and the things he took into his book as follows: Beliefs, customs, large structures, type of soil, climate, animals living in the environment, width of deserts, voyages of discovery, borders of the world, great rivers of unknown origin, living conditions, body structure, pleasures. Bonnard 2004/2, 159). This listed diversity not only shows how productive the book is, but also shows the areas of interest of Herodotus.
Herodotus stated his purpose in writing history in the first paragraph of his book as follows: This is the research presented to the public by Herodotus of Halicarnosos. May the deeds of mankind not be forgotten in time, and may the marvelous deeds of both the Greeks and the barbarians not remain unnamed for one day; and one should not wonder why they would fight each other (Herodotos 2007, I, 5).
Its purpose can be called the first interpretation of historiography known as memory. Recording the doings of societies is essential for the learning of both present and future generations. Another important reason is that he announced that he would explain the causes of wars. The conditions of the period in which he lived make him think about the causes of war. While preparing the book, which gives information about many and very wide areas, Herodotos also expressed his point of view on events. “My duty is to give what is told to me. As for believing, nothing can force me to do so, and I say this for all I have said” (Herodotos 2007, VII/152, 575-576).
He usually kept his word. If there were different rumors about what was told, he also gave them. He did not ignore opposing views. When he obtained written documents on the subject, he made an evaluation by adhering to the document. He did not hide his admiration for a wide variety of foreign traditions, laws, buildings, works of art. While expressing that they found it strange and ugly, he also expressed that he liked it.
It is an important feature of Herodotus that he tells about different cultures and traditions without being strange and states that they have their own values. Considering the attitude of Kambyses, the father of Lydian king Kroisos, about sacred areas and laws, he reports that he is insane (Herodotos 2007, III / 38, 230-231). He supported the objective approach he followed with other examples. Comparing the Egyptians with the Greeks, seeing the Egyptians as superior is another example of the attitude of objectivity (Herodotos 2007, II /43, 139-140).
Herodotus accepts that the god Heracles passed from the Egyptians to the Greeks. In addition, he did not give examples that show that other cultures influenced the Greeks, not only from the Egyptians. He also stated that the Greek alphabet came from the Phoenicians. “These Phoenicians I mentioned, the companions of Kadmos from Gephyra, brought a lot of information to Greece after they settled in this country, and they especially introduced writing. I don’t think the Greeks recognized this before; originally these were the letters used throughout Phoenicia. Over time, the forms of these signs have changed as well as their pronunciation. The inhabitants of most of the countries around them at that time were Ionian; they took the Phoenician alphabet and used it with some modification. They did not mind preserving the name ‘Phoenician script’, which was the right thing to do, because the Phoenicians brought these letters to Greece” (Herodotos 2007, V/58, 407-408). His handling of events in an objective manner is among the important features that he brought to historiography.
He established and developed the general method of comparison; In particular, it drew conclusions by making comparisons between similar subjects and institutions. With this attitude, he showed that he followed an impartial attitude. He has been aware that a development has emerged from the influence of cultures on each other. He saw the role played by Athens in the wars of the Greeks and foreigners as a historical development. He implied a developing enlightenment (Edelstein 1967, 47). Man is constantly changing; stated that the factor that played a role in this was fate (Herodotos 2007, I/ 32, 20-21).
Besides comparison, Herodotus